Reflections on Muhammad Ali
Article by Amir Saeed
Muhammad Ali was born January 17, 1942 and has been the subject of so many debates, arguments, glorifications and criticisms throughout his career it is amazing that he can still take centre stage in any global spectacle.
Ali was an iconic figure in the struggle for black civil rights in the 1960s, while simultaneously retaining a measure of popular support, including initially within the media, because of his larger than life personality, entertainment value and outstanding skill as a boxer. When he was persecuted by the establishment and the subject of media vilification in the mid-1960s, after refusing to be drafted into the US army, this only increased his heroic status for many. But by 1996 he was back in the bosom of the establishment, and given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta. Ali ‘ologists’ have for years tried to understand, debate and explain his enduring influence.
Considering that Ali’s last fight, in December 1981, was a devastating and embarrassing defeat, his enduring stay in the limelight is all the more remarkable. This is partly because his legacy cannot be confined neatly into any one category: to label him as solely a boxer or athlete is to do him an injustice, and the range of people for whom he has been a source of identification is very diverse.
What's left to be said about him that hasn't already been documented? Ali's life in and out of the ring has been covered so much to the point that it's been exhausted. Instead of trying to find something to say about his career or the influence he's had world-wide as a humanitarian since he retired as a fighter that hasn't already been said possible the greatest compliment is to share the following quote from his biographer and friend Thomas Hauser:
“I remember the year that Muhammad phoned to wish me a Merry Xmas. Think about that. A Muslim calling a Jew to wish him well on a Christian holiday. There’s a message in that for anyone who’s listening.”
Happy birthday, Muhammad.
Dr Amir Saeed, 18 January 2012